Students try to eliminate illegible handwriting with a book

During an Analysis lecture by lecturer Georg Prokert, Lourens Touwen, a bachelor's student of Applied Mathematics, noticed that he had a lot of trouble deciphering his professor’s handwriting on the chalkboard. With his fellow student Tristan Trouwen he joked that it would be a nice idea to make a book to practice mathematical symbols, like toddlers do with the letters of the alphabet. The first pages have been designed and they created a crowdfunding to publish ‘From scribble to readable’.

photo Mock-up | Lourens Touwen en Tristan Trouwen

"Such a book would be useful (and funny) for anyone at TU/e who regularly has to write such symbols," Touwen says. Now, with a little more free time than usual, both students decided to try and make it happen. “We sent an email to mister Prokert, who is notorious for his difficult subjects such as Analysis and Advanced Calculus and his illegible handwriting. Prokert, who has a good sense of humor, was happy to support our project.” This clearly shows from a video that he recorded as a statement of support:

Dr. Prokert Endorses "From Scribble To Readable"

Touwen: “We started making some concept pages for the book and a crowdfunding page to publish it. We chose Kickstarter because as a sponsor, you only pay once the target is met. One book costs 10 euros. If you get some friends together, there is a real deal in it: 3 for 25 euros."

Trouwen and Touwen don’t let their idea go unnoticed and even made a promotional video. In total, 750 euros must be collected to be able to publish the book. "Kickstarter only accepts credit cards, not ideal for students," Touwen confesses, "but we hope that students without such a card will bat their eyelashes at their parents.”

The first pages have been designed. A total of thirty symbols should be included in the book, provided of course there is enough enthusiasm for the project. "For some symbols, such as the Greek sign for 'xi' on the front, there are several ways to write them, but we choose the most legible and beautiful variant," Touwen says. They already have ideas about which thirty characters to include, but they are also open to suggestions from sponsors. "The book will help you learn to write the common mathematical symbols well so that they remain legible."

Deciphering remotely

Is it even more difficult to decipher the mathematical scribbles in online lectures? Touwen needs to think about that for a moment: “They are less small because you can zoom in, but they are also slightly less sharp. So I think it’s about the same. But if you're at home without distractions, you're bothered by it faster.”

Can't you just point this out to the teacher? It turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that. Touwen: “They say what they write down when they write it down. So you actually feel a little guilty if you ask because that means you haven't been paying close attention. Sometimes people do ask. And mister Prokert sometimes wipes out the entire line with a sense of guilt, because he also realizes it is illegible.”

Lourens Touwen and Tristan Trouwen even made a promotion video to make the book happen.

From Scribble To Readable - On Kickstarter Now!

Lourens Touwen and Tristan Trouwen even made a promotion video to make the book happen.

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